Perak: The 7 Heritage Places You can Visit
I was invited by the Secretariat of Visit Malaysia Year 2014 to visit Perak, the fourth largest state in Peninsular Malaysia back in October, so that I can get myself acquainted with this unfamiliar yet famous land. Travelling around and shown around by staff from Gaya Travel, it was also the first time I was invited to appear in Yo! Traveller (as a guest traveller together with Ellisan Tan, a Malaysian singer), a travel program on Spotlive TV, an Online TV Broadcasting Channel in Malaysia.
So here, I did came up with the list of places I visited, as well as a simple rating system (based on my personal experiences) to help you guys decide if you decide to include any of the places into your itinerary!
1. Kuala Kangsar Heritage Trail
Kuala Kangsar is the royal town of Perak, Malaysia. Just 48 km north of Ipoh on the Perak River, there will be several significant buildings that might catch your attention. The first one will be the Masjid Ubudiah, Perak’s royal mosque. An impressive structure topped with a constellation of bright golden domes, Masjid Ubudiah ranks high in one of Malaysia’s list of most beautiful mosques.
The mosque was designed by Arthur Benison Hubback, a government architect who is notably credited for the design of the Ipoh railway station (up next!) and the Kuala Lumpur railway station. Completed in late 1917, Sultan Idris Murshidul’adzam Shah, the 28th Sultan of Perak used RM200,000 to build the great beauty as thanksgiving for recovery from an illness which plagued him earlier.
Inside, the crystal chandelier caught my attending immediately, followed by the exquisite details of the ceiling, walls, doors and carpet. If you are interested to take a look at the spell-bounding infrastructure from the inside, just make sure that you are dress appropriately before entering. (For detailed information on the mosque etiquette, click here) The mosque provided a brown cloak for interested parties to put on before entering. As you an see, there is a divider between the men and women, and that they are supposed to enter from a different entrance for prayers.
The Istana Kenangan, once the old palace, now known as the Royal Museum of Perak. Built in 1926, Sultan Iskandar Shah stayed there between 1931 and 1933 while waiting for the completion of Istana Iskandariah. There after, the Istana Kenangan was used to host royal receptions and accomodate the palace guests.
The shape of the structure when view from above resembles a sword in its scabbard. It is two-storey high, with the top floor consisting of the bedchamber, family bedrooms and a dining hall. Fine wooden carvings and woven wall-mats enhance the beauty and uniqueness of this beautiful wooden building.
Opening Hours: 10.00am – 5.00pm
Entrance Fee: Free
Address:Bukit Chandan, 33000 Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 9.30am-5pm Daily,
Closed on Thursday 12.15pm-2.45pm, Fridays and Public Holidays
Entrance Fee: Free
Address: Istana Lama Bukit Chandan, Perak, 33000 Kuala Kangsar, Malaysia
Photo-worthy Spot: ** | Heritage/Historical Value: *** | Visit if You are Free
2. Ipoh Railway Station
The Ipoh Railway Station (also known as the Taj Mahal of Ipoh) was completed in 1935 to replace the original railway platform shed built in 1917. The white structure, Neo-Moorish style, is said to be the second most beautiful railway station in Malaysia after its sister, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station (as they were both designed by Arthur Benison Hubback).
Located on Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab, the station was initially meant to be a hospital before being turned into a station. Now it houses the Majestic Hotel and was even used as a shooting location for the 1999 film “Anna and the King”, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fatt.
Entrance Fee: FREE.
Address: Ipoh Railway Station
Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab
30000 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Tel: +605 2540481
Photo-worthy Spot: *** | Heritage/Historical Value: *** | Visit if You are Free
3. Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge
For those who know Malay, Perak means Silver in Malay (Tin is silver in colour) and Perak, home of many tin mines, was known historically for its tin-mining activities until the price of the metal dropped, severely affecting the state’s economy. And Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge, also known as Tanjung Tualang Dredge No 5 (TT5) is the last dredge preserved by the local community and government, and is used for educational and tourism purposes.
This 4,500-ton dredge floating on the excavation site, believed to be the largest of the five, was built in England in 1938 by F.W.Payne & Son for the Southern Malayan Tin Dredging Ltd, a company formed in 1926 which operated a further 5 dredges in the Batu Gajah and Tanjung Tualang area. TT5 was in operation for 44 years at Gopeng until 1982 when the Malaysian tin industry experienced a rapid decline due to a combination of exhausted tin deposits, low tin prices and high operating costs. In 1982, TT5 was relocated to Chenderong (a small town between Batu Gajah and Tanjong Tualang).
A tin dredge is like a floating factory in a mining pool. Dredge (mean: Iron Ship 铁船) are the heavy duty mining machine to mine the tin cores. Tin dredges work by scooping up bucket loads of tin-bearing soil at the front end, which then passes through an oscillating drum and a system of jigs and screens to extract the tin. The waste material were then let out at the rear end through a number of chutes.
The tour guide brought us for a quick tour into the upper levels of the “iron ship”, where I got to see the humongous buckets used to extract the soil. The infrastructure seemed to be left at its natural state, and there were times I wonder if the steps were able to hold our weight. But the nice view of the nearby mining pools from the roof made the somewhat-risky trip up the dredge worth it. Many of these mining pools have been filled with water and are now converted to prawn farms, fishing ponds, wetlands and water features for housing developments.
See, I even found the largest bolt wrench(?) at one of the corner! It reminded me of a beer opener (for the giants though). Guess how many people will be needed to operate this life-size equipment? I will leave it for the tour guide to tell you if you ever visit this place!
Opening Hours: Daily 8.30am to 6.00pm
Entrance Fee: RM6 for adults, RM3 for kids (Packages available)
Address: Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge Ship,
Warisan Kapal Korek (Tin Dredge Heritage), 9th Km, Jalan Tanjung Tualang, 31000, Batu Gajah, Perak.
Photo-worthy Spot: *** | Heritage/Historical Value: **** | Recommended!
4. Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley
The Lenggong Archaeological Museum displays artifacts excavated from the Lenggong Valley and also house the “Perak Man”, the most famous archaeological findings in Lenggong. Perak Man is the 11,000 years old human skeletal remains which was discovered at Gua Gunung Runtuh, a cave of his final resting place situated in Bukit Kepala Gajah or Elephant’s Head Hill in 1991. The skeleton was a male with a height of approximately 157 cm, aged 50s.
Besides the Perak Man, 100,000 year-old stone tools have been excavated at Kampung Geluk and Kampung Temelong. There has also been proof that Gua Harimau was a site of bronze manufacture during the Bronze Age. The Lenggong valley is one of Peninsular Malaysia’s most important areas for archaeology, as excavations have revealed many traces of Malaysia’s prehistory. It is the site of the oldest known place of human activity in the Peninsula. On 30th June 2012, the Lenggong Valley was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
Despite efforts to house the artifacts, the small museum did not managed to bring out the importance of the discovery as it lacks interesting discovery. Albeit properly maintained, the most important artifact was just a replica. Thus, the job of educating the public and getting them interested fell on to the shoulders of the tour guide.
Kota Tampan Archaeological Museum
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat: 9AM – 5PM; Fri: 9AM – 12PM, 3PM – 5PM
Entrance Fee: Free.
Address: Department of National Heritage, Kota Tampan, Lenggong, 33400 Perak, Malaysia
Tel: +605 7679700
Photo-worthy Spot: ** | Heritage/Historical Value: ***** | Recommended!
5. Gopeng Heritage House Museum
This museum was initiated by Mr. Wong Kuan Cheong and constructed with the help of local community. Mr. Wong donated his family house to turn it into a museum with no entrance fee charged. Maintenance is done by the community using fund donated by the public.
With the countless antiques, old furniture and calligraphy paintings on display, I was somehow able to recapture the simple lives of the people of Gopeng. The second level of the shop house was decorated and filled with exquisite decorations and furnishings, reflecting how the life of a middle-class family was like a century back.
The nostalgic rooms and furniture may seem familar if you’ve been watching period dramas, if not, walking into this place somehow made me feel separated from the bustling life just few metres away from the house.
Besides that, the community also set up the Gopeng Museum to educate people on the history of tin mining. It was set up by banker, Mr. Bernard Yaw who wanted to fulfill his mother’s wish by opening a Gopeng Museum and rebrand the town of Gopeng.
This is one of the few place where you can’t help but keep snapping photos in hope to capture the nostalgic memories. However, nothing beats exploring the houses yourself, after all, it is a local community effort for the public.
Gopeng Heritage House
Opening Hours: 9.00am-3.00pm (Only On Weekends)
Entrance Fee: FREE
Address: 6, Jalan Sungai Itik, 31600 Gopeng, Perak.
Tel: 016-542 1287(Phang Sek Hong)
Photo-worthy Spot: **** | Heritage/Historical Value: ***** | Recommended!
6. Kinta Tin Mining (Gravel Pump) Museum
By now, the number of tin mining “museums” in the list is enough to make most people say, “Another one?” Well, at least that was what I felt when I knew that we were going to this. From the outside, it look like another typical (normal) museum, most likely with rocks and more rocks, or plenty of machines and photos? Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was so wrong! From the looks of it, Kinta Tin Mining (Gravel Pump) Museum is currently Malaysia’s foremost and dedicated museum featuring the rich tin legacy in Kampar, a popular tin mining town.
The museum was officially opened on October 2012, with the aim to dedicate the museum purely to the gravel pump method. Initiated by former tin miner Mr. Tan Sri Hew See Tong used his land (formerly a mining site), to build this museum consisting of housing development, commercial and industrial space, education centre while preserving Kampar’s heritage sites.
Stepping in, I was fascinated (ecstatic to be truthful) by the outdoor exhibitions, where there were life-size diorama (figurine) showing how tin miners used the gravel pump method to mine for tin in the now defunct mines. There were numerous heavy equipment (some of them rusting badly) along the perimeter outside the main air-conditioned hall.
There is an elephant statue near the entrance of the air-conditioned section. It is the “founder” of the rich tin deposits of Kinta Valley. The Larut district was named after this elephant, which belonged to Long Ja’afar. ‘Larut’ had went missing and when it was found 3 days later, its leg was all covered with mud and tin ore.
Besides the diorama to depict the labour and tasks villagers of Kampar (both men and women) had to do through when they were out in search for the minerals, there is also a hallway of photo exhibits of mine holes and machinery. If you aren’t too engross in your selfie-taking, you might be able to hear mining crew’s shouts, construction and machinery noise in the background too.
Photo-worthy Spot: *** | Heritage/Historical Value: **** | Recommended!
7. Kellie’s Castle
I’ve visited Kellie’s Castle twice, and despite it being rumoured to be haunted, I still think that it is a beautiful place for wedding photoshoot. Afterall, the castle was built by the Scottish planter William Kellie Smith in 1915 as a sign of love for his wife. The construction of the castle was never completed and it has since been shrouded in mystery and romantic stories of love and tragedy.
Located in Batu Gajah, the castle sits on top of a hill in what used to be a rubber estate. Kellie had built a temple 1.5km away from the castle for deity Mariamman when many of his workers contracted the Spanish Flu and died in process. The first elevator in Malaysia is also located in Kellie’s Castle. It travels from the roof down to the underground tunnels. The castle was never completed when the owner William Kellie Smith returned to England, contracted pneumonia and died at age of 56 there.
Kellie’s wife sold the castle to a British company called Harrisons and Crossfield and left Malaysia with her kids. Kellie’s Castle has been refurbished and appears as if it has never been touched. It was even used as a setting in the 1999 film Anna and the King.
The only thing left of the first home is the covered walkway, an open courtyard and part of a crumbling wall. Today, it is opened as a tourist attraction. To read the full story of William Kellie Smith, click here.
Opening Hours: Daily 9.00am to 6.00pm
Entrance Fee: FREE (Age six and below) | RM2 (Primary School) | RM3 (Secondary School | RM4 (Adult) | RM5 (Non-Malaysian)
Address: Chalet Mdkb Kellie’s Castle, Jalan Gopeng, Batu Gajah, 31000, Batu Gajah, Perak
Photo-worthy Spot: ***** | Heritage/Historical Value: **** | Highly Recommended!
This blog post was made possible through Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia – Perak, a media tour held last October 28 to 31, 2013. The event was organized by Gaya Travel Magazine and sponsored by Secretariat of Visit Malaysia Year 2014 in celebration of Visit Malaysia Year 2014 #VMY2014.
If you want to check out more tourist attractions, do check out the Perak Tourism Website.